I got say, having your Governor impeached by your State House of Representatives and about to be put on trial by Senate, starting tomorrow, just makes me all kinds of nostalgic for other moments of impeachment across this great land. Our Illinois legislature has not impeached or convicted a governor for misconduct for almost a century. In order to set up the structure of removing a sitting governor, our fearless legislative leaders modeled their actions on the impeachment of President Clinton ten years ago. Anxious to refresh my mind on the legal strategies and structures from that event, I wanted to see what artifacts remained on the web.
I got to say -- Google was a failure in this kind of search --I turned up over 700,000 hits. The same search terms in usa.gov turned up 99 very specific and on scope hits
In this way, the organized structure of the government trumps the expansiveness of the web.
I will be very interested to see where (and how) the Obama civic machinery improves on the search capabilities of usa.gov.
See you on Day 6
A short message tonight. I was just looking at the State Department Web site and noticed its link to the Bush Administration only goes back as far as 2005. I can not find any reference to the critical years of 2001 to 2004, much less the Clinton years. I know 1995 -- 2000 exists (dosfan.lib.uic.edu) and (http://state.gov/index.html) as one of the first partnerships with GPO. But there is no direct link from the current state department web pages to these earlier entities.
As much as we should worry about digital preservation, we should also worry about preservation of digital links from one administration to another. I think a mistaken impression has crept into our political culture that all information produced by executive offices changes with the regimes. I think this is a perception especially encouraged by all the recent press about Obama undoing several of Bush's executive orders. It leaves the impression that executive action can be changed and all earlier policies, decisions, actions are either not applicable or enforceable.
I have sent an email message to the State Department web folks asking them to restore the links to the earlier material.
See you day 5.
Wow. I just watched the dvr'd version of Obama's remarks. Wow. Two things are remarkable to me as I sit here and think about what I just saw. First, his remarks are stitched together with both subtle and outright references to the mother of all government information sources: the constitution and bill of rights. Have I been such a cynic for so long when I listen to our politicians that I have forgotten the civic wonder contained within that foundational document? Second, or perhaps I was equally stunned to hear a politician who can think in complete, metaphoric, and appealing sentences. I do not remember him once glancing down at any notes, or obviously towards a teleprompter. What's more, is it just me, or has nearly thirty years of banging the drum of "the government is the problem, not the solution." rant really deaden any sense of optimism in most of us? To hear one of our presidents speak of a government with such positive (and realistic) tone -- why does it feel like walking into a bright shining patch of sunlight after toiling so long through a dark and confusing forest?
I can understand much better how the promise of this one politician married to the reach and power of the information technologies that it seems we have rediscovered the ruins of our humble information tribe's former city. Documents to the people indeed.
I can only redouble my urgency and encourage all of you to contribute to the great discussion now being joined about the future of the federal depository library program. This is the first president, and perhaps the first congress as well, who share in a civic vision where the expansiveness of the democratic and civic possibilities of a well ordered digital library system just might be in reach.
Before I return with a gimlet-eyed weariness to the civic project, I am going to enjoy this moment of rediscovered idealism in the democratic experiment.
See you on Day 4.
Well, already there is an information gap -- just two days into the new Administration. The first is constitutional, and stems from the stumbling exchange between Obama and Supreme Court Justice Roberts during the oath of office on Tuesday. Apparently the clumsy dialogue raised contstitutional questions of the legitmacy, and there was a do over Wednesday evening. Good to know the power of the mother of all goverenment information, the Constituion, still has its foundational mojo going -- especially after eight years were the practice and philosophy seemed to consider constitutional advantages in such a limited fashion.
What I find more curious (but not surprised, considering other news stories of the technological and transitional state of affairs in the White House) is how few (if any) of Obama's official words, statements, news releases, etc. actually appear on the White House web page. The other official sources, Weekly Compilation and the Federal Register are also behind.
I predict a robust life and purpose for government informationn librarians in the near future.
See you on Day 3
And so, Team Obama greets the first day of Government Information Liberation with, among many other things, the recision of G.W. Bush's infamous Presidential Records Executive Order. But a closer reading of the press release and the order itself proves to be more nuanced. As it states in the news release about the new executive order:
"This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends. Now, only the President will have that power, limiting its potential for abuse. And the order also requires the Attorney General and the White House Counsel to review claims of executive privilege about covered records to make sure those claims are fully warranted by the Constitution.”
So the new order consolidates the power of review back into the current White House, which we all hope is much more enlightened than other political powers. Is it a true revocation of the early Bush doctrine? Maybe yes, maybe no. It would be much better to have statutory language that makes clear which records are reviewable and which are not, otherwise each administration can change the intent of the law according to its own political whim.
Perhaps only a new law, such as the Presidential Records Act of 2009 can take this descision making power from the politics of executive and/or legislative will.
On another front, it will be very interesting to see how the policies and programs of Obama will be distinguished from those of Bush. Web pages may change, as demonstrated by the Obama White House web site; but so many other Bush decisions and laws he signed while in office will remain in effect that swapping out Secretaries or Cabinet level officers won't necessarily lift the yoke of Bush doctrine completely.
This will be a very, very good season to be a government information librarian.
As a reminder -- with government information liberation day now in the rear view mirror, I am shifting my focus on the next few months, calling these daily blog entries, "Won't Get Fooled Again" in honor of the wonderful 1971 song by the band The Who. We are in time frame of a few months when a series of critical discussions will take place at various national level librarian conferences. It starts with the ALA midwinter confab in Denver at the end of this week. followed by at least three other meetings before the gathering during July in Chicago for ALA's annual gig.
To this end, I am resetting (and renaming) the discussion time clock. 140 days to consensus on the future role of libraries in the fabric of our civic information exchange.
See you on Day 2.
It is done. New web pages for the White House. I understand it was an outstanding inauguration -- which I did not get to see or listen to because life was making other unexpected plans today -- I did record about seven hours of the event on my DVR, and expect to go back and watch it when I can. In the meantime, I've put a general news blackout on the speech and its contents until I can experience it as it happened through delayed TV. Going to be interesting to see if I can carry this off -- judging from the blog posts here at FGI, I kinda feel like the only government information librarian who did not watch, read, or listen to the remarks. Either this is a fascinating twist on my long 75 day slog to liberation; or its a metaphor for our time that one can be so selective in choosing from the media stream.
But, I do not think we have to hear the speech to understand that our collective task remains unfinished -- to sustain an accessible and permanent infrastructure of civic information. I believe Obama and his policies favor many or our ideals, and where other administrations choose either indifference or resistance to this notion, I think we are going to experience a bit of a golden age in regards to public information.
Part of the this optimism stems from the capabilities of technology. Part of it comes from the reborn notion that government just might be a positive force in our society. In either case, libraries and their civic minded employees have their work cut out for them if they want to make a serious bid for both relevance and effectiveness in this new age of democratic possibilities.
To this end, as I have mentioned before, a series of critical discussions will take place at various national level librarian conferences. It starts with the ALA midwinter confab in Denver at the end of this week. followed by at least three other meetings before the gathering during July in Chicago for ALA's annual gig.
To this end, I am resetting the discussion time clock. 140 days to consensus on the future role of libraries in the fabric of our civic information exchange.
See you on the day after
This part of our journey is almost over. The images and words streaming in around the country as our national attention sharpens in anticipation of tomorrow's event. The way people are talking -- it feels like a national holiday of sorts.
I will address these issues over the next few months -- continue the theme with a post liberation theme. Here are the points I will be considering
There are four ways we can do this, and I will discuss each (with a specific suggestion or two of how to approach the problem) over the next ten days.
1. How do we work within our professional associations. and with other advocacy groups, on how to better understand and collaborate with the public/non-governmental institutions responsible for creating and the several layers of civic information content and infrastructure?
2. How do we establish some kind of clear understanding of what our institutional role should be/might be in the preservation of the vast number of digital and tangible formats now used by these public institutions?
3. Can we agree on clear guidelines and expectations of what it means to effectively (and actively) promote the access and use of civic information within our communities?
4. In terms of education and professional knowledge -- what are the essential skills, outlook, tools necessary to support a librarian who specializes in government information services?
See you on the Liberation Day. And after.
Almost there -- fewer than 48 hours until liberation. As champions of a sustainable (and open) system of government information there is still much to do. If we are to take advantage of the good will and optimism unleashed three months ago, then we must choose wisely in what we advocate and collaborate. I will be more specific tomorrow and Tuesday -- but here are the main points.
First, figure out how to bulid on Obama's community organizer roots. I think the era of great society federal programs will not return any time soon. As pointed out in so many of the blogs here on FGI, much of digital social and political tools bend toward citizen-level involvement.
Second, that is not to say that government does not have strong to play in the distribution and preservation of government information. It does. The best thing that can happen in the next four years is to undo the great damage done over the past 40 years by the mindless rhetoric that brands any government activity as a problem, not a solution.
Third, through our practice, professional education, and service in our local institutions, we have to liberate government information service from the tyranny of formats. Our various associations and groups have got to come to terms with how and why libraries will serve the public interest in a robust digital environment.
It is no longer a zero-sum game -- paper at the price of other formats; centralized organizations vs. decentralized structures. Our arguments and solutions need to be more nuanced and flexible.
See you on the last day.
There's President-elect Obama and Vice-President Elect Joe Biden riding that crown jewel of 19th-century technology, the railroad. The two are riding into a city that was laid out by a French man with dreams of a urban an landscape that would match the 18th century democratic ideals of a new country. When Biden and Obama stand on the western portico of the nation's capitol -- watched by millions strung along the broad vistas of the national mall, as weill as through the hundreds of digital and analog media channels -- and they look west to the Washington Monument, their vista will be one largely framed by another Chicagoan over a hundred years ago -- Daniel H. Burnham, who also designed the Union Station where the train arrived on Saturday. Mr. Burnham's plans for Washington, D.C. were considered by many to be the first 20th century examples of how expertise and technology could make vast urban areas more livable and productive. A promise he ultimately capped with his heralded 1909 Plan of Chicago.
All of this is simply a lyrical way to show hw the moment of Obama's official assumption of duties occurs in a rich, and deeply interconnected, context of history, present and future. It is a condition librarians can understand and appreciate -- considering we are learning to live with the transformation of our 19th century collection/ideals or paper and print and trying to imagine how they will work in a new century dominated by digital demands of e-government and the private world wide web.
As we discuss, plan, scheme, argue, advocate, debate, insist, and talk (and talk) about the future plans of civic information mechanisms, let us keep constantly in mind that as much as the digital wonders change how we do things -- the substance of what we do as civic librarians does not change – ensuring the sustainability and openness of the civic conversation between the governed and their governors.
I hope Obama's speech on Tuesday captures some of this essential truth.
See you on Day 2.
I underestimated the groundswell of inauguration theater as the day of liberation dawns. I know serious policy decisions need to be made about the future of information policy -- and after nearly 15 years of inaction, misdirection, and simple inertia, to be so to the possibility of change almost hurts in its anticipation.
But it is tough to run against the strong current of "history" in the making as Tuesday approaches. If some predictions hold true, it means well over a million people will crowd Washington, D.C.'s streets, parks, alleyways, the Mall, and corners just to catch a glimpse of some of the action or just to be able to say they were there. President Bush delivered his last formal public words yesterday -- not surprisingly -- making the claim he did all right with the problems he had to deal with it. In the meantime, insiders report that Obama is working hard on his first official words hoping to draw inspiration (and associations) from the speeches of Lincoln.
As government information librarians we should step back for a few days and enjoy this moment of democratic theater. As I consider which policy points to make or programs to support to assure the free and permanent access to government information -- I had to stop for a moment when I saw the faces of some school children here in Chicago who got the unexpected opportunity to go to the big show on Tuesday. This was something special to them, something that gave flesh and joy to all of our dry reports and meetings. This was the spark of civic possibilites that much of our library advocacy only describes in a second or third hand.
So, for these next few days let's just go with the moment. Something transformational happened nearly 70 days ago, and as we approach Tuesday, its full import and possibilities press on our sensibilities again.
If you are working over the course of the next three days, I recommend this -- take a moment to talk to a patron and ask if they will be watching the inaugaration, and share some of the civic information possibilities this event might mean. Talk to them as if the government might still matter in their lives, that its thousands of of commissions, agencies, bureaus, committees, etc. are really trying to do something about all the problems and challenges we share. I do not mean to go all partisan or advocate political positions. I mean simply try to capture in brief human exchange the excitement and wonder this peaceful transfer of power implies.
Wednesday will come soon enough and our obligations towards fulfilling this democratic promise can begin again.
See you on day 3.